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A non-profit makingassociation registeredunderthe Charities Act

s well as being a legal requirement a well

implemented risk assessment can help
make the workplace a safer environment
and reduce the likelihood of an accident.This guide
is intended to help both employers and employees
to assess risks in the workplace.

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British Safety Council

National Safety Centre
70 Chancellors Road
London W6 9RS
TelephoneOl8l 741 1231
with the Charity

Commission. Reg No.207826

Risk assessments

n essence, a risk assessment is nothing more

than a careful examination of what, in your
workplace, could cause harm to people. By
precisely pinpointing the ______________________


health and safety

employers have a sound

foundation on which to
base safety improvements

before accidents occur.

However, before attem-

pting to carry out a risk

assessment it is important
to understand what is
meant by the terms hazard and risk.

A hazard is anything
with the potential to cause
harm in other words an
accident waiting to happen. Hazards can include

substances, machinesand methods of work.

The risk expresses the extent to which something harmful an accident or ill-healthfor example is likely to happen.

Why assess?
nder the Management of Health and Safety
at Work Regulations 1992 all employers
are required to carry out full risk assessments in their workplaces,and to take positive

SafetyAttitude Guide

can identify the required

By assessingthe risks employers


action to eliminate or satisfactorily reduce any

risks found.

In addition there are many other regulations

that require risks to be assessed, including:
Manual Handling OperationsRegulations 1992;
Personal Protective Equipment at Work

Control of

Regulations 1992;
Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment)
Regulations 1992;
Regulations 1989;
Substances Hazardous to Health
Regulations 1994;
Asbestos atWork Regulations 1987;
Control of Lead atWork Regulations 1980.
By assessing the risks employers can identify
the measures which should be taken to ensure
the health and safety of their employees and nonemployees.
However, although risk assessments are ultimately the responsibility of the employer, employees also have duties.

Safety Attitude Guide

Employees must use any work equipmentthat

is provided safely and in accordance with any
training or specialist instructions received.
In addition, if employees identify any risks or
hazards in the workplace they should notify their
employer or supervisor. Consultationof employees is also an important part of risk assessment
procedures as they are more likely to be aware of
the hazards and risks in the workplace.


here are no fixed rules about how a risk

assessment should be undertaken, mainly
becausethe nature of the assessment will
vary depending on the nature of the undertaking
and the type and extent of the hazards and risks.
However, before
risks in the workplace
can be remedied, the
first step to carrying
out a riskassessmentis
to appoint an assessor
to identify the hazards
The assessor should

walk round the workplace and look at what

could reasonably be
expected to cause
harm. Initially the trivial
risks should be ignored

whilst the significant

hazards which could

Safety Attitude Guide

operations such as
be included in the


result in serious injury or affect several people are

concentrated on first.
Employees and safety representatives should be

consulted as they may be aware of problems

which are not immediately obvious to the asses-

sor. Manufacturer's instructions or datasheets can

also assist in the identification of hazards and put
risks in perspective.
Assessors should address what actually happens in the workplaceor during the work activity
as actual practice may differ from the works man-

ual. Non-routine operations, such as equipment

maintenance shouldalso be considered.
It may also be helpful to examine workplace
accident and ill-health records.Situations where
existing hazards have caused accidents and accident trends or ill-health in specific departments,
such as asthma and respiratory problems caused
by dust exposure or back sprains from awkward
manual handling operations,can also be used to

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Who's affected?

t is not only health and safety risks to

employees that have to be considered, you

should think about people who may not be in

the workplace all the

time.These can include:

fellow employees.

In some cases

it is not

only operatives of
equipment who are

exposed to risks, colleagues who may be

working alongside them
can be exposed to the
same hazards, for
example the noisefrom
a machine will also
affect those nearby.
Assessors should also
be aware that inexperienced or young workers, and those who
work alone, may be
more at risk from some


working alonemaybe
ALONE: Employees

more at risk that others.


Workers supplied by an
be fully aware of the workings or
agency may
employees. Employees of other companies, self-employed persons may be exposed
to risks whilst on the premises, or they may bring
risks with them, such as maintenance engineers
with dangerous machinery or cleaners with hazardous chemicals;

SafetyAttitude Guide

to workplace visitors. or
ty local
to protect

Visitors can be exposed

hazards while visiting working in the workplace; and
Employers have a responsibili-

local people from the possible

adverse effects from the workplace. Examples of
hazards can includenoise, chemical fumes or movingvehicles.

Evaluate risks

nce the hazards have been identifiedthe

risks should be estimated. Employers
should consider the likelihood of hazardous events occurring and the severity of the
resulting consequences.

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One way of finding

out if risks can be

reduced is to ensure that

all the legal requirements
have been complied with,
for example where there
is legislation on the prevention of accessto dangerous parts of machinery.The assessor should

then decide whether

generally accepted industry standards are in

place. However does
not end there, as the law


requires employers to
do all reasonably practicable to keep the workplace safe.The aim is that
by adding to the necessar recautions all risks
are made small,


should considerthe
likelihood of hazardous
events occurring.

In some situations a
brief initial risk assessment can be conductedto
eliminate risks which need no further action and
identify locations where a more detailed assessment is required.


nother consideration when carrying out

the risk assessment is that it should be
appropriate to the type ofwork being car-

ried out.

Safety Attitude Guide

For example, with small

workplaces which present

few or simple hazards a suit-

able risk assessmentcan be a

straightforwardprocess based
on common sense requiring
no specialist skills or compli-

cated techniques. However,

with industries that use complex chemical or mineral

extraction processes,the risk
assessment may need



more detailed and possibly

incorporate specialist techniques such as quantified risk assessment. This

might necessitate bringing in outside specialist

The important thing to remember is that the

level of detail in the assessmentshould be proportional to the risks the purpose is not to record
everytrivial hazard.The assessmentshould reflect


it is reasonably practicable to expect

employers to know about the hazards in their

In many medium and high risk environments it
might not be possible to make a suitable assessment without specialist advice due to unfamiliar
risks or complexprocesses or techniques.


ssessors should have enough knowledge

to be able to assess the risks properly.The
employer should appoint a competentper-

SafetyAttitude Guide

to carry out risk assessments unless the

employer is competent to carry out the assessson

ment themselves.
The level of competence required to assess the
risks will depend on the kind of work carried out
in the workplace. In

very simple situations, with few risks,

the assessor should

the limitations ofof


an understanding

of relevant current
best practice;
an awareness

their own experi-

ence and knowledge;

a willingness and
ability to supplement

their own experience and knowledge.

For more complex or highly technical situations the assessor will require more
specialist knowledge and skills, for example
specific chemical and safety training.


hile every employer and self-employed

person has to carry out a risk assessment only those with five or more
employees mustrecord the findings.

SafetyAttitude Guide

However,those with
five or more employees
must record the significant hazards and the
conclusions should be
recorded. For example if
fumes from welding are
presentthen this should
be recorded along with
the relevantaction taken
such as local exhaust

There is no need to show how the assessment

was carried out provided that the employer can

account the

a proper check was made;

the assessorasked who might be affected;
obvious significant hazards, taking into
number of people who could be
with; and

precautions are reasonable and the remainis low.

The documentshould be kept for future reference and use.

Controlling risks


the riskassessmentis only the

first step towards a safer workplace.The

next step is to reduce the risks as much
as possible, and there are a number of principles
which should be considered. It is always better to
combat the risks at source rather than reacting to
them.The basic principles are:

Safety AttitudeGuide

Elimination. It is best to avoid the risk altogether.A mechanical lifting device,for example,
might eliminate the risk of back injury from lifting

heavy objects;

Selecting safer work practices

can reduce
risks at source.The substitutionof
a less hazardous substance in a chemical process
may reduce employee ill-health;
Isolation. Where possible employees should
be removed from the hazardous environment, for
example preventing access to noisy areas;

to the

can be achieved by
hazard, by using, for instance,
machine guards
possible the employees'
should be reduced,for

example providing display screen equipment users

with non-screen based work;

Information. Employees should be informed
of the risks and instructed in the correct safe
working practices;and

SafetyAttitude Guide

Personal protection. Although personal protective equipment (PPE) should be seen as a last
resort, PPE can play a part in the reduction of risk.

Assessment review

s time passes new equipment, substances

or procedures may bring more hazards

into the workplace.Asa result it is important that the risk assessment is reviewed and

It is not necessary to reviewthe assessmentfor

every trivial change,only if the change introduces


significant hazards. However, is good practice to

review the assessment at regular intervals.The
frequency of renewal will depend on the type of
workplaceenvironment and how often it changes.
Iffor example theworkplace is a fairly high risk

environment where the nature of work changes

quite often it might be a
good idea to review the
assessment every two or
three months.
If, on the other hand,
the workplace is of relatively low risk, for example an office, where the

kind of work rarely

changes a yearly review

might be sufficient. Your

assessment should give
you an idea of the frequency that a review
needs to take place.

Safety AttitudeGuide

Other assessments

ost firms in the commercial, service

and light industrial sector have relatively few or simple hazards. The
employer may have already assessed some of the
risks, for example
undertaking an assessment of chemical risks
under the Control of
Substances Hazardous


Health Regulations

1994 (COSHH). If this

is the case then the

risks do not need to be
re-assessed so long as
the assessment is still

This may be the case

elsewhere too as many

different regulations
contain separate requirements for risk assessments. For example, regulations covering manual
handling, display screen equipment and noise all
place differentduties on employers with regard to


Manual handling
The Manual Handling Operations Regulations
1992 requires employers to assess the health and
safety risks to employees from manual handling
operations which involve a risk of injury.

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If manual handling or lifting cannot be reduced

or avoided then a risk assessment that examines
the full range of handling operations should be

uridertaken.The assessmentshould identify:

the problems that are likely to arise from the
handling operations; and
the measures that will be necessary to deal
with them.
The assessment should examine the task, the
size, shape and weight of the load, the environment and the individual's handling capability.

Personal protection
The Personal Protective Equipment at Work
Regulations 1992 requires employers to make an
assessment of the personal protective equipment
(PPE) needs of employees and provide ergonomically suitable equipment in relation to foreseeable
risks at work. The assessment should be carried
out before any required PPE is chosen by the

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The assessment needs only to examine the

risks which have not been avoided by other
means,but also should identify ifthe PPE:
is suitable for the risk;
is suitable for the job;
is suitable for the wearer; and
is compatible with othertypes of PPE.

Display screen equipment

Risks to health and safety which users and operators of display screen equipmentare exposed to
have to be assessed under the Health and Safety

(Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992.

Fatigue is the main health hazard associated
with display screen equipment use but there are

others areas of concern which should be

addressed during the
course of the risk assessment.These include:


can range from temporary bodyfatigue or sore-

ness to disorders such as

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
which can cause severe
wrist problems; and

Eyes and eyesight.

Some workers experience temporary visual
fatigue which can lead to
impaired visual performance, red or sore eyes
and headaches.

SafetyAttitude Guide


' ,


Noise at work
The Noise at Work Regulations 1989 requires an
assessment to be made by a competent person
when any employee or self employed person is
likely to be exposed to
a daily personal noise
exposureof 85dB(A) or
above, or to a peak
level of 200 pascals or more.

As a rough guide, if
people have to shout or
are having difficulty
being heard clearly by
someone two metres
away, or

if they find it

difficult to talk to each

other, an assessment of
daily personal
exposurewill be required.
The assessmenthas to:
identifyall workers likely to be exposed; and
provide enough information to enable appropriate action to be taken.

Hazardous substances
The assessment under the COSHH Regulations
should be carried out before work with any hazardous substancesbegins.
The purpose of the assessment is to enable a
decision to be made on the necessary measures
to control substances hazardous to health arising
from any work.The assessmentshould include:
an assessmentofthe risks to health;

SafetyAttitude Guide


consideration of the practicability of preventing

exposure to hazardous substances;
steps needed to achieve adequate control
exposure where prevention is not reasonably
identificationof other action necessary to comply with the COSHHRegulations.
The assessment of the risks to health should
involve consideration of:
which substances employees are liable to be
exposed to;
what effects those substances have on the
where the substances are likely to be present
and in what form; and
the ways in which and theextent to which per-

sons could potentially be exposed, taking into

account the nature of the work and processes,
and any reasonably foreseeable deterioration or
filure ofanycontrol measures.
In some cases it
will only be necessary
to read suppliers'
information sheets to
decide that existing
practices are sufficient
to ensure adequate
control of exposure.
In other circum-


stances may be necessary to read industry guidance or carry

out atmospheric sam-

pling and measurement to determine


SafetyAttitude Guide

Asbestos and lead

The Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations
1987 requires an assessment of exposure of people to asbestos.The assessmentwill allow employers to:


identifythe type of asbestos;


the nature and degree of exposure;

set out the steps to reduce the exposure to

lowest reasonably practicable level.
An assessment to determine the nature and
degree of exposure to lead is required under the
Control of Lead at Work Regulations 1980.The
regulations also require employers to provide
control measuresto preventexposure.

Safe attitudes

t is important that workers are made aware

of the results of the risk assessments,as it is

they who are normally the most at risk This

Safety Attitude Guide

will mean making employees aware of existing

hazards and also any new safe working practices,
and might include providing extra training where

The risk assessmentwill identifythe hazards in

the workplace but employers should also be
aware that the majority
of accidents at work are


caused by work
equipment, but by
human error. Or, in
other words caused by

the failure of management or employees to

plan and carry out their
work safely.

The key to good

workplace safety does
not simply lie in more
machine guarding, warning notices and protective equipment important as these things are

in the right situations

but in developing a safety culture which runs
throughout the organisation, from the boardroomto the shop floor.
Establishing safer atti-

tudes throughout the

organisation and carrying

useless employees
do not wear it.


out a good risk assessment, which involves the entire workforce,should

make a safer and healthier workplace for everyone.

SafetyAttitude Guide


Words byGary Wilson

SafetyAttitude Guide

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